Monday, August 18, 2008

Stormwatching Season

I know I have not posted any photos in a couple of weeks. It's been pretty quiet since our teenaged guests left. I thought I would put something up here even though we do not have any news, really. Whenever we see an image that we thing might be colorful, we try for it:

That is actually very typical for here. It is raining on the hills on the right side of the photo. And not on the left. This is definitely a land of scattered showers and thunderstorms. It's the beginning of the warmest part of the year here, which is August and September. This is the start of the closest thing the TCI gets to a 'rainy' season. This country averages 350 days of sunshine a year. That should tell you something.

This is a great time of the year for weather watching. We appreciate the changes from day to day. Some days are calm, some days are stormy, and of course we keep a constant eye out for approaching cyclones.

On the water every trip becomes a mini-adventure as we dodge squall lines and thunderstorms:

Sometimes we go around them, sometimes we circle to let one pass in front of us, and sometimes we just grit our teeth and blast through them.

The most recent weather-related thing in our lives was watching the storm first known as 'Invest 92" form out in the Atlantic. It turned into Tropical Storm Fay just as it went a little south of us here. As I am sure you can imagine, we keep a pretty close eye on several weather sources on the Internet. We also watch the Weather Channel on television, but by the time the North American broadcast people pick up on a storm threat it's probably already in our backyard. Not nearly enough advance warning to do us any good, so we watch them coming all the way from Africa.

This time we would look at the sat images such as this one:

and then walk outside and look to the Northeast and sure enough see:

Which would then turn into this:

And then as the storm passed to the south of us and started piling up on the Dominican Republic we got more serious bands coming through:

That dark band is the leading edge of a rain squall just about to whack me in the camera...and then things got really thick, and even the boat disappeared:

Looking up the coast, it's not our normal view at all:

The good part of this, for us, was listening to thousands of gallons of water gushing into the cisterns. And watching the dog shiver and try to hide under any horizontal surface he could find. I guess I should have taken some more photos of Dooley the Discombobulated and Distraught. But he was shaking so badly I am pretty sure any images of him would have been blurred anyway.

And today, while CNN, Fox, and the Weather Channel are keeping an eye on where Fay is likely to hit Florida, that's yesterday's problem to us. We are already watching "Invest 94" which you can see south of the Cape Verde Islands over on the lower right side of this image:

And in more graphic form, here is our next potential "gotcha"

Oh boy, another week of watching sat images to look forward. And a boat and house to worry about. Such is the Caribbean lifestyle this time of year.

Meanwhile things continue to fall apart just so that I can put them back together here at the house. A few days ago La Gringa was sitting at her computer when she heard a strange sudden noise from the ceiling fan over her desk. By the time she could say "what the..." it had dropped down from its mounting, spinning at full tilt, wound up the three wires attaching it to the house, twisted the wires completely off and came crashing the rest of the way down. It looked like a helicopter that suddenly lost power and tried to auto-rotate to a hard landing. Fortunately, the spinning blades hit her computer monitor and it deflected the fan off into a chair. It missed her by maybe two feet. If the monitor had not been sitting there it could have gotten ugly.

When the dust settled I took the thing apart to do a post mortem. I found out that the installer had not bothered to tighten the set screw that holds the entire fan to the threaded mount. It didn't look good for the fan wiring, but I decided to take it apart and see if I could fix it. This is what it looked like in pieces:

I wish I had thought to start taking photos while there was nothing but three very tightly twisted wires hanging from the ceiling. In any case, I cut off the damaged parts and soldered them back together and re-assembled the fan. I hooked it back up to the ceiling (yes I tightened the set screw!) and turned the wall switch on. Nada. So I put a volt/ohm meter on it, and had no power coming through the wires.

This led me to tracking back through the wiring until I got to the wall control switch. Yep, had 120 volts on one side of it, but nothing coming out the other. Opened it up and it looked pretty well fried. There is not supposed to be any black soot on capacitors.

The printed circuits were blown right off the board. Well, I tried bypassing them by soldering wires from point to point. Got it all back together, and then when I applied 120 volts to the input, I got 120 volts on the output. Problem was, I got it no matter where the switch was set, even if it was set to 'off'. So, I knew one of the capacitors or the switch itself was most likely shorted. Oh was worth a try. Can't win em all.

The ceiling fan? I just wired past where the switch was. It's happily spinning away. And I brought up a ladder and checked the other fans in the house. I found another one in the kitchen that had never had an allen wrench touch the set screw.

In between minor disasters life goes on. We took Dooley the Devious out to Pine Cay to visit some friends from the US. La Gringa tried to get him into the pool, but strangely enough he had absolutely no use for the idea of swimming in fresh water.

Maybe it's the chlorine smell. Or lack of a barracuda smell. I don't know, but he doesn't like swimming in fresh water.

I think he has become spoiled by the ocean. I know I have. But in his case, he is really becoming a 'salty dog':

Yes, that is wet sand stuck to his nose, chest, legs, and in his eyes. He doesn't care. He loves the beach.

The almost constant need to fix things here has slowed down some of my other DIY plans. But I try to keep some project going all the time. Lately I have decided to add some drawers to the workbenches. I am brand new at building drawers , but am slowly working my way through it. Anything made out of wood here needs to be made of something that will not interest termites. So I took some pressure treated 2x4's and cut them into lengths corresponding to the size of the drawers I want to build:

I ripped those into thinner boards, and ended up with enough side pieces for four drawers out of two 2x4's.

That's $12 worth of bugproof that's a pretty good deal financially.

I did not want to take the time to cut box joints for the edges, and I have a strong aversion to using nails or screws for joints so I got on the internet and read how to make this thing called a 'locking rabbet/dado' joint. Once you set the tablesaw up, you can whip through these just about as fast as you can push the wood through.

For any woodworkers out there, this is what the drawer joint looks like:

(and NO I do NOT wear white Crocs in public. Those are only for working in the garage.)

The side frames for two drawers, with grooves cut for the plywood bottoms:

Those joints are tight enough that they hold the sides together dry. After I put some glue on them they should be very strong.

And looking at that workbench you can probably see why I need to build some drawers to organize things a bit. I seem to spend more time looking for tools than I actually spend using them once I find them.

One of the basic drawers with the plywood bottom in, and clamped while the glue sets up:

Four of those went together really easily. Now I just have to figure out how to keep them from coming all the way out when I pull them forward on the wooden slides I made.

We've been watching storms roll by and involved in constant DIY projects and we have not been using the boat much. For some reason as yet undetermined, the gasoline mileage on the Yamaha has dropped until we are only getting about 2 mpg! I checked all the obvious things, and then called in the cavalry. Our friend Evan is now a certified Yamaha outboard mechanic. I managed to talk him into a "house call" last week just before the storm tied us up for two days:

He found a few air leaks in the fuel lines, but did not find any major problems that would explain the lousy gas mileage. And at $6 a gallon, we need to find out what is going on. We will be taking the boat out for a run sometimes in the next day or so and if it's still not acting right I may change the prop on it. But that still won't explain what changed in the first place.

That's about it for this post. I realize it's on the lame side, but at least it's something different to look at for those of our friends and family who like to keep track of what we are up to.

And we will continue our quest for the perfect sunset, of course. And make do with the average ones until that stunner comes along.


heinz said...

I missed the posts the past few weeks (not that you are under any obligation). Great photos as always, thank you,


Dad said...

Hmmmm ..... If I am honest, I forgot the "UK only" issue for BBC iPlayer; that was dumb of me.

Well, I will get a copy of the 3 episodes onto DVD if you'd care for it at any time.

For now, back to August 18th post and what a terrific first image!!
It looks like two halves of two different images, blue and orange.


Anonymous said...

Hey if there was some easy way to see those programs we would love to. Alas...with the mail situation here, I am sure it's more trouble than is warranted.

Glad you liked that sunset. The first photo is actually in the same series as the last one. I just used the zoom on it.

We have been getting some really nice sunsets this week. I took a lot of photos of the one tonight, in fact. I need to download them and take a look but I am hoping it's a contender.

Anonymous said...

Great shots, as usual, Gringo. I've gotta admit, though, that my favorite so far is the shot through the grasses, (Jul 30 010a).

Here's hoping I-94 doesn't bother you any more than Fay did.

Anonymous said...

Hola Gringo Y Gringa (and dog)!

Thanks for posting an update and photos...I love storms, looking forward to some more pics from ya'll.

On a note related to storms and oceans, I was just on vacation with my 9 year old son on Seabrook Island in SC and we got caught in a downpour while on the beach, it was cool because we decided to stay in the ocean to stay warm it it was quite dramatic being in a downpour with my kid while everyone else was srambling for shelter...the visual perspective with water pelting down into the waves all around us was cool...

Anonymous said...

We are now watching Hurricane Gustav just south of us. Seems we are averaging about a storm a week here now. Some of them are a little too close for comfort.

But the clouds do make for some interesting sunsets.